(John 1:1-18) Part 1

There was a man named, Arius, who wrote in AD 321 that Jesus had a beginning; thus, making Him only human. Arius claimed that Jesus “before he was begotten or created or appointed or established, he did not exist; for he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say: ‘the Son has a beginning, but God is with­out beginning.’ For that reason we are persecuted, and because we say that he is from what is not. And this we say because he is neither part of God nor derived from any substance.”[1] However, Athanasius, a member of the Nicaean Council, argued that our salvation would be at stake if Jesus is only human and not God, so he refuted Arius by stating, “If Christ is just another created being, even though he is the firstborn and most exalted of all created beings, then it is more natural to think of him as our teacher and example than as our atoning sacrifice.  Rather than simply having faith in him, we are called upon to imitate him.  Because it considered Jesus a creature, and attributed our salvation to him, Arianism exalted what a creature can do.”[2] Arias was condemned at Nicaea in AD 325.

I actually agree with Athanasius. If Jesus is just a man and not God, then our salvation is at stake. The reason why Jesus is the ultimate sacrificial lamb because He is both God and human. As God, He’s perfect, and as human, He can empathize and sympathize with us human beings.

There are passages in the Scriptures that declare that Jesus is God, such as John 1:1-18; 8:58; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:13-23; 2:9-10; and Heb. 1:1-14; 2:5-18. For my current blogs, I’ll be focusing on John 1:1-18. Since it’s a pretty long passage for a blog, there will be three parts. The first part will concentrate on John 1:1-5.

First of all, the author (John) wrote the Gospel According to John* (or the Gospel of John) for the readers to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, NKJV). The author intended the Gospel for the reader to respond by believing in Jesus for who He is, the Christ and Son of God. This belief involves committing oneself to Jesus. This purpose has an evangelistic motive and teaching design.[3] This means that ὁ λόγος (“the Word”) in chapter 1 speaks of Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-2 states: “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν,” which translates in English as, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

The Gospel According to John is grounded upon Old Testament theology. The author begins with “In the beginning” (1:1), which uses the first words of Genesis 1, the creation account. The word, “beginning” indicates a time preceding creation. The emphasis of this verse is to prove the preexistence of the Word, which sets up for the new “beginning,” the incarnation of the Word, in which is described in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NASB). The Word” embodies Jesus’ full ministry, which identifies all of Jesus’ works and words within the structure of “both His eternal being and existence as God’s self-revelation in salvation history.”[4]

Since the Gospel According to John speaks of Jesus Christ and His life on earth, John shows that Jesus was the Word and that He is God, as we read in verses 1-2. Verse 3 declares: “πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν,” which translates to “All things were created through Him, and not one thing was created apart from Him” (HCSB). This verse proves that “The Word” (ὁ λόγος), who happens to be Jesus Christ, is also the Creator of the universe. Since He is also the Creator of all things, He is God. Paul also confirms this in Colossians 1:16-17 (HCSB): “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.”

Verses 3c-4 says, “ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·” This translates to: “That which has come into existence in Him was life, and that life was the light of men” (my translation). According to the theologian and former Archbishop of Dublin, John H. Bernard, “the life which was eternally in the Word, when it goes forth, issues in created life, and this is true both of (a) the physical and (b) the spiritual world. (a) Jesus Christ, the Son and the Word, is the Life (11:25, 14:6), the Living One (ὁ ζῶν, Rev. 1:17); and it is through this Life of His that all created things hold together and cohere (Col. 1:17). (b) In the spiritual order, this is also true. The Son having life in Himself (5:26) gives life to whomsoever he wishes (οὓς θέλει ζωοποιεῖ, 5:21).”[5] As for Gerald Borchert, a New Testament scholar, the verb, ἦν (was) refers to ὁ λόγος (the Word). He said, “’life’ is an essential quality only of such persons in the Godhead as the Logos and not to creation. In the second half of the verse, then, preparation is laid for the order of redemption that was introduced into the world. As the evangelist indicated, life is the source of light for humanity.” [6] What Borchert meant about the evangelist in his quote is actually the author of the Gospel According to John.

Verse 5 proclaims: “καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν” and is translated to “Even so, the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot obtain it” (my translation). As stated by the New Testament scholar and professor, George Beasley-Murray, “the light of the Logos shone in the primal darkness at creation, and continued amidst the darkness of fallen mankind; it shone with greater brilliance in the glory of the Incarnate One; and it shines on in the era of the Resurrection, which is the time of the Paraclete.” [7] He also said that the verb οὐ κατέλαβεν contains “the past of the preincarnate Logos, as of the Incarnate Logos, and extends into the era of the Church’s witness to the Logos made flesh.”[8] How awesome is that that the light of Jesus has been shining since the world began up to now! Sadly, some people would rather be evil and like darkness themselves that they wouldn’t obtain the light of Jesus. However, if we let Jesus use as His lights, others will see His light and be drawn to Him.

Now, we could establish, just by reading the first five verses of John 1, that the author proclaims Jesus as “the Word” (ὁ λόγος), who happens to be God. John, the author and evangelist, intended the Gospel for the reader to respond by believing in Jesus for who He is, the Christ and Son of God.[9]

The first part ends here, and I’ll be doing John 1:6-13 on my next blog.

*I’m using the title Gospel According to John rather than the Gospel of John because all four Gospels are the Gospels of Jesus Christ, and God inspired the human Gospel authors to write about Him.

[1] Allister E. McGrath, ed., The Christian Theology Reader (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2016).

[2] Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988, 1984).

[3] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 31.

[4] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 9-13.

[5] J. H. Bernard, A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. John. (A. H. McNeile, Ed.) (New York: C. Scribner’ Sons, 1929), 4.

[6] Borchert, John, 108.

[7] George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Vol. 36 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999) 11.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Borchert, John, 31.

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